Achievements and Prospects
Remarkable changes have occurred in West Africa since the signing of the ECOWAS Treaty1 on 25 May 1975
just as the external environment has undergone considerable changes. This year’s celebration of the 25th
anniversary of the community is an opportunity for reviewing the process of integration within the ECOWAS
framework. This document is the Executive Secretariat’s contribution to the study of the achievements and
prospects of ECOWAS.

The vision that the founding fathers had at the time of the creation of ECOWAS was one of collective self-
sufficiency through the integration of the sixteen West African countries into an economic block with a single
market organised around an economic and monetary union. This concern was born out of the realisation that the
domestic markets of the member States taken individually were, as a result of their smallness, far from being
competitive in a world environment marked by the existence of large trade blocks.

The overall objective of ECOWAS is to promote co-operation and integration in order to create an economic and
monetary union for encouraging economic growth and development in West Africa. In order to do this, the
following actions are envisaged:

the suppression of customs duties and equivalent taxes

the establishment of a common external tariff;

the harmonisation of economic and financial policies

the creation of a monetary zone.

.In view of the slowness in the progress recorded by ECOWAS, the 1975 treaty has been revised. The principle of
supranationality in the application of decisions and the autonomous funding of the budgets of the institutions have
been introduced. Furthermore, the creation of supranational institutions of control and arbitration has been
envisaged in the application of decisions : a court of justice, a parliament and an economic and social council.

.In spite of the difficulties, ECOWAS has chalked up remarkable progress in the area of free movement of
persons; construction of regional (inter-State) roads, development of telecommunication links between the States
and maintenance of peace and regional security. It is in the area of the integration of markets that the efforts of
the Community have been frustrating. In fact, the trade liberalisation scheme is not yet operational as shown by
the low level of the intraregional trade which is only 11% as compared to trade with third countries. Besides, the
common ECOWAS external tariff has still not seen the light of day and the economic and financial policies have
not been harmonised although a framework has been established for this.

Numerous problems have been encountered by ECOWAS in the enhancement of the process of regional
integration of West Africa. Among the most important of these problems are: the political instability and bad
governance that have plagued many of the countries; the weakness of the national economies and their
insufficient diversification; the absence of reliable road, telecommunications and energy infrastructure; the
insufficient political will exhibited by some member States; the bad economic policies in certain cases; the
multiplicity of organisations for regional integration with the same objectives; the irregularity in the payment of
financial contributions to the budgets of the institutions; the failure to involve the civil society, the private sector
and mass movements in the process of integration; the defective nature of the integrational machinery in certain
cases.

If, on the whole, the results of the integrational efforts made in West Africa by ECOWAS have, as already
indicated, been clearly below expectations, there are, however, promising signs which indicate better prospects
for the future. For example, it has been observed that recent events in the political and economic scenery of West
Africa have gradually helped to remove the principal obstacles to integration. Among these are:

the advent of democracy in most ECOWAS countries, particularly, in Nigeria which is the dominant economy in
West Africa;

the gradual withdrawal of the State from the sectors of productive activity, and the realisation that the private
sector must be the mainspring of growth and economic integration;

the adoption of a strategy for accelerating the ECOWAS process of integration in order to create a single regional
market based on trade liberalisation, to establish a common external tariff and to harmonise economic and
financial policies;

the recognition of the relevance of a different approach in the march towards integration as found in the initiative
of the non-UEMOA countries in creating a second monetary zone in West Africa which will merge up with the
UEMOA zone to give rise to a single ECOWAS monetary zone in the year 2004;

the harmonisation of the programmes of ECOWAS and UEMOA in connection with the acceleration of the process
of integration in West Africa;

the liberalisation of national markets and external trade that resulted from adjustment and reform programmes
and which led to some amount of convergence in macroeconomic policies;

the common challenge that is thrown by the creation of trade blocks in other regions of the world and globalisation
which risks marginalising Africa; this makes it necessary to accelerate the transition towards an autonomous and
self-financed development within the framework of African integration;

the restructuring of the Executive Secretariat and ECOWAS Fund within the framework of the improvement of their
operational procedures.

The member States of ECOWAS must lean on these prospects for enhancing the process of regional integration
and accept the development challenge of the 21st century.

The document comprises two chapters and annexes. Chapter One deals with the achievements of ECOWAS and
Chapter Two is on the prospects and the development framework of the Community. The annexes present the
state of implementation of the ECOWAS integrational programme, country by country.
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